It’s a question that often starts flame wars on forums, YouTube comment sections and social media. If Saitama and Goku were to fight, who would win? Unfortunately for me, my answer to the question may turn both camps into my enemy.
If Saitama and Goku were to fight, the victor would be whoever’s world the fight takes place in. In One-Punch Man’s world, he would win. In Dragon Ball’s world Goku would win. Neither scenario would make either of them happy, making the fight nonsensical.
If you have not yet reached for your pitchforks, you can find my reasoning for this below.
The purpose of both stories
In Dragon Ball, Goku serves to show that any obstacle can be overcome. No matter which kind of new opponent is thrown at him, he will relish in the challenge and conquer it. He may not win on his first try and he is sure to struggle, but he will win.
One-Punch Man, on the other hand, concentrates on a hero that has already overcome all opponents. Combat wise no one is his equal. Not only has he overcome all challengers, they no longer faze him at all. His strength is absolute and he has become an obstacle that cannot be overcome.
As you can see, the purpose of both stories clash. This is the main reason why this fight is nonsensical. If Goku would enter the world of One-Punch Man, Saitama would not be fazed by him. This goes against Goku’s character, whose purpose is to overcome any opponent. If Saitama would enter the Dragon Ball Universe, Goku would eventually find a way to overcome his opponent. This goes against Saitama’s character, as infinity is not meant to be overcome.
Based on feats
When we consider only the feats of both characters, it is clear that Goku is the one with the clear advantage. But that still does not mean he would win. Saitama simply has not needed to exert anywhere near the kind of strength Goku has.
As strong as Goku is, his strength can be measured. Saitama’s strength has no limits. It’s like comparing the kilograms a person can lift with the number of water drops in the ocean. It just doesn’t make any sense.
People having this debate based on feats lack the understanding of what One-Punch Man is really about. Still, Saitama’s strongest shown feats (jumping from the moon to Earth, splitting a planet surface buster attack) aren’t anywhere near Goku’s stronger feats. Will Saitama’s feats ever be comparable? Only time will tell – it simply depends on the opponents he will face.
No way for Goku to win?
As stated before, Saitama’s strength is meant to be infinite. But does that mean that he has no disadvantages in a combat situation? Not exactly.
Saitama’s arsenal is quite limited. He does not have any killer techniques and sees martial arts as “moving around in a fancy way”. When a Meteor threatened his city, he destroyed it effortlessly but was unable to avoid large amounts of collateral damage.
You could make the point that he wasn’t really trying his hardest, which is true, but the fact remains he is not used dealing with such attacks. In addition, it is unclear if Saitama can survive without breathable air. When he landed on the moon he held his breath after all. It could just be a reflex as it was the first time he found himself in space, but it is impossible to tell.
Goku could simply fire a large Kamehameha down onto the planet, rather than aimed at Saitama. Regardless if Saitama could survive in space, a hero can’t exactly call failure to save his planet a victory. We all know that is not the way the Saiyan likes to fight his battles though, so it is not something that is likely to happen.
Pitfalls in this discussion
If you are a fan of a show, you tend to automatically see things from that show’s perspective. Although I actually do like Dragon Ball, it is not in my top 3 like One-Punch Man. I admit that I too stumbled into this pitfall, which caused me to think that Saitama would win regardless of circumstances. I feel my current view is a lot more objective.
Similarly, if you are a fan of a character, you want good things to happen to that character. You are inclined to root for them. It is important to realize that a stronger character does not (necessarily) make for a better character though.
Creating a ridiculously overpowered character is easy. Any idiot with a pen can create a character that can destroy everyone else by sneezing. Does that automatically make a good character? Of course not. It’s something to keep in mind before rushing to the aid of your favorite character.
Other related fights
With all due to respect to Mr. Lee, who certainly has a point, I don’t feel his point of view is always true. Sure, the author has a lot of power and in just about every anime or Manga out there, the protagonist is eventually destined to win. But that does not mean that you cannot have meaningful “who would win” discussions.
If power is somewhat measurable, you can at least match two characters on neutral grounds in the here and now. That means that while Saitama vs. X is nonsensical even if you replace Goku by anyone else. You COULD if you would only take his shown feats so far, which is done sometimes. It then becomes an entirely different discussion though (and yes, as mentioned above, Goku would win easily if so).
Goku’s power is at least somewhat measurable. He does not win every fight automatically. You could as such discuss a fight between Goku and many other characters, a popular one being Goku vs. Thanos. That’s a hornet’s nest I am not getting my hands in though. Suffice it to say that things change significantly depending on which version of Thanos (MCU or comic series, with or without infinity gauntlet) Goku would face.